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Kendal Calling 2014 was wet, windy and wild, but that didn’t stop it being one of the finest weekends of the festival calendar.
Anyone considering a trip to the Lake District at any time of the year would be well advised to anticipate bad weather, as Kendal Calling 2014 demonstrated all too well. At times, revellers were treated to a rendition of the classic “four seasons in one day”: heavy rain, followed by strong winds, then a glimpse of blue sky and sunshine before the rain returned again. Rinse and repeat.
Some people had grokked that it was raining and muddy and wore wellies and raincoats. Others appeared not to notice, sporting flimsy trainers and T-shirts that were soon overwhelmed by the weather. Those who were either already insane or induced to be so by the party atmosphere positively relished the conditions, to the extent of indulging in mud-diving, mud-fighting and indeed, mud-hugging. On this evidence, anyone who tells you rain spoils a festival needs to have a rethink.
In between the mud-love there happened to be some music. Kendal has within its modestly-sized site a plethora of stages: the commercial-biased Main Stage, the new indie bands on the Calling Out stage, the pretty Woodlands stage, in addition to hosting longtime external collaborators Chai Wallahs and Riot Jazz. The compact nature of the site – you’re never more than 10 minutes away from the other side – means it carries a significant advantage over mega-festivals where it feels like one spends most of the day trudging from one far-flung stage to the next.
The big news this year was the opening of the main arena on Thursday night, for the benefit of those who paid a bit extra for early entry. And who better to get the place rocking than everyone’s favourite funk ‘n’ soul (and friend to TGTF) DJ Craig Charles? In truth, technically, he’s no better than the chap in your local boozer spinning the silver discs of a Saturday night – there’s little attempt at anything fancy like beatmatching – but what Charles lacks in technical skill he far more than makes up for with sheer unbridled enthusiasm, standing up on the desk, exhorting the crowd into further frenzies of funk-induced revelry, his set heavy with classic soul and climaxing with a Dimitri From Paris’ remix of Michael Jackson’s ‘I Want You Back’ by which time a random gaggle of lucky punters had been invited up on stage, dancing with DJ Charles in various states of inebriation and undress. The party had well and truly started.
Kendal’s campsites are true melting pots of those brave souls who risk staying up beyond the witching hour to for the simple pleasures of shared song and story… and beer and whisky. If you don’t want to be kept awake by a tone-deaf rendition of ‘Wonderwall’ at 3 AM, then the quiet camping area is a must. Never fear, your correspondent was on hand to ensure that at the very least the guitar was properly tuned – no mean feat at such a late hour. After so much anticipation, Friday morning couldn’t dawn soon enough, and after such a fine prelude, it had finally arrived.
Stay tuned for more coverage from Martin on this year’s Kendal Calling coming soon on TGTF.
By Mary Chang
on Friday, 15th August 2014 at 4:00 pm
When you’re an internationally known singer/songwriter like Liam Finn is, you can do whatever you want. Such as put together a bunch of your favourite artists and have them perform live with you on a rooftop in New York City. Which is exactly what Finn did with his Dream Team band, which included Connan Mockasin, Kirin J Callinan and EJ Barnes. We feature below the first of eight videos, a live rendition of ‘Ocean Emmanuelle’ from Finn’s latest album ‘The Nihilist’, which Carrie reviewed in May.
Of the other seven videos, six are live versions of other songs from the album, but the odd man out is a cover of – surprise! – Sinead O’Connor’s ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’. For the entire playlist, visit the Vevo site here.
No review of Deer Shed would be complete without mentioning the various extra-musical activities available for the under-16s. And where to begin? Perhaps on Sunday, when the musical offerings are relatively modest, to help the crowd wind down, and to let the kids’ activities, rather than the adults’, prevail. There was shaker-making (sadly not to the soundtrack of Oasis’ ‘Shakermaker’), badge-making and flag-making. There was a real-life yellow submarine, which hosted any number of interactive workshops. There was actual jousting, on horseback and everything. There was a beach. For the older ones, there were electronics projects, Minecraft, soldering for girls and the mildly disturbing Tedroids. There was hula hooping, swingball and lots and lots of bubbles. Best of all, the famous enormous cardboard boxes were there to age-independent glee, hand-decorated and constructed into elaborate, surreal, child-sized cities. It’s impossible to imagine a more perfect child-friendly festival experience. And by virtue of the new-for-2014 Obelisk stage and bar, subtly located in a nook behind the kids’ tents, Dad can sneak off for a quick premium ale without too much fuss.
As Sunday drew to a close, and tired children napped in homebound cars, thoughts turned to Deer Shed’s short but happy history, and where it might go in the future. The site has been subtly rearranged every year, but seems to be settling in its current format for now. There’s no doubt that the essential details have been resolved – the stage names and locations, the excellent food outlets, the plentiful camping areas – all satisfyingly top quality. The big question for this writer is – where will the music policy head in the future? The good news is Deer Shed has its finger firmly on the pulse of the zeitgeist, unfailingly booking acts just as their careers are taking off, so it’s as good a place as any to work out who next year’s big names will be as any.
However, various online hints suggest that the curators enjoy their guitar music, particularly around the punk/new-wave spectrum, and whilst those genres are an essential part of festival programming, this year seemed more guitar-oriented than last, and that’s perhaps something of a shame. Sac ‘n’ Pip demonstrated that there’s a powerful appetite for a bit of urban music in the Yorkshire countryside, so more of that please. There’s loads of scope for more country, dance-funk, electronica and after-hours ambient. And not to mention that Saturday night headliner… I wonder what Jarvis Cocker is doing this time next year?
And sticking with the Js, why not Just Jack, Jon Allen and John Shuttleworth? Keep the guitar bands in the tents, and funk up the main stage. The truth is, however, Deer Shed could stick on a couple of buskers for half the bill (or, goodness forfend, The Lancashire Hotpots) and still people would flock to it. Because there’s something about the atmosphere, the site and the families, which remains unmatched anywhere in festivaldom. And I’m willing to wager that for 99% of the audience at Deer Shed, that’s what keeps them coming back year after year. Here’s to Deer Shed’s 6th birthday.
By Mary Chang
on Thursday, 14th August 2014 at 4:00 pm
August seems like a long time from March, but this new video of Aussie duo Falls performing live at SXSW 2014 reminds us that it’s not that long now until SXSW madness begins again. Watch as Melinda Kirwin and Simon Rudston-Brown, augmented by a lovely string section (probably different than the one I saw with them in Sydney 2 years ago, surely?), perform their track ‘Home’ in Austin at the (in)famous Cathedral of Junk in Austin, Texas.
TGTF coverage of Falls is all here.
By Mary Chang
on Wednesday, 13th August 2014 at 4:00 pm
Now this more like it. The Kooks have released this video of themselves performing their next single ‘Forgive and Forget’, which will be out on the 8th of September. On the same day, their fourth album ‘Listen’, featuring ‘Forgive and Forget’, will also be released on Virgin/EMI. Accompanied by booted up, dressed up Twiggy-like gals in spectacles, this video sure beats the stupidly violent one for ‘Around Town’ and goes back to the band’s more fun, poppier roots. Watch the video below.
All Kooks flavoured coverage on TGTF is this way.
Camping with kids at festivals is rewarding and frustrating in equal measure. Despite running around all day, playing swingball in fits of glee, they rarely fall asleep anywhere near normal bedtime yet paradoxically wake at the crack of dawn, as the first glow of sunlight forces its way through increasingly stuffy canvas. Which would explain the weary expressions on the faces of parents in the queues for coffee and bacon sandwiches early Saturday morning at Deer Shed festival. Plenty simply hadn’t bothered to get dressed, waiting in line in pyjamas and Crocs for the calories and caffeine which would finally drag them into the realm of the waking.
As good a place as any to eat breakfast was the Big Top tent, with Paul Cookson and Stan Cullimore for company. Stan used to be in The Housemartins, so he can play the ukulele and now sings songs for kids rather than blather on about how good Hull is. Paul Cookson used to be a teacher, so knows how to handle a crowd of over-excited children, and trades in performance poetry when not accompanying Cullimore on the ukulele. He has one particularly memorable routine in which he impersonates his teenage daughter’s head-shaking, hand-waving putdowns: “Wha-eva, major loser!” Elsewhere, the Stan sings a song about the virtues or otherwise of his musical partner’s digestive system, which of course brings the house down. A great way to banish the cobwebs.
Leeds’ Post War Glamour Girls do a good job of convincing people to buy their début album ‘Pink Fur’. Its scuzzy, incessant grooves infected with gothic despair are ironically just the ticket to really launch into Saturday PM. The shadow of Nick Cave hangs heavy over them; indeed, the male-female interplay recalls Cave and Minogue at their most lugubrious. After all that, how bad can one’s life be in comparison? Dublin’s Raglans do exactly what you might expect of a few likely lads equipped with guitars from Ireland’s party city. Upbeat, jolly ditties, delivered with irrepressible enthusiasm. Their song entitled ‘White Lightning’ might raise queasy memories of last night’s cider-induced hangover, but apart from that, they deserve full marks for kicking the Main Stage into life.
With nothing of interest to follow on the Main Stage, it’s to the comedy tent to witness Wes Zaharuk (yet another name misspelled in the programme). His brand of shambolic, power tool-assisted slapstick comedy has the power to have an audience in tears of laughter in short order, and gives any manner of ideas for mayhem to errant toddlers. A whole toilet roll is unravelled in someone’s face using some sort of power blower, and a lucky lady gets to feed Wes a banana. From behind. Without looking. It’s unclear how he gets away with it, but give praise to the god of slapstick that he does.
Happyness are the perfect mid-afternoon tent band. Their chilled-out obscurantist rock proves how effective the power trio lineup can still be. Their songs have a deceptive superficial simplicity in which hides all manner of clever guitar work and surrealist lyrical content. ‘Refrigerate Her’, anyone? The irony of their name versus their faux-glum onstage banter doesn’t go unnoticed, either. With their début album now released, Happyness deserve increasing recognition for their West-Coast-by-way-of-South-London vibes – and they’re certainly headed in the right direction.
Unfortunately Catfish and the Bottlemen are indisposed, so Bleech play for the second time in 2 days. Which means that We Were Evergreen’s upcoming claim to Deer Shed fame – that they’d be the first act to play the main stage twice – is cruelly usurped by fate at the last possible moment. Which makes it even more inexplicable when the compere introduces “We Are Evergreen [sic], the first band ever to play the Main Stage twice!” just after Bleech had finished playing their second Main Stage set. Evergreen’s name had been misspelled throughout the catalogue and lanyard – one would imagine that a band that had played before would have better name recognition than the others, but apparently not. Anyway, a bit of a low point, credibility-wise.
What wasn’t a low point was We Were Evergreen’s actual set. Fortunately, the Parisian three-piece multi-instrumentalists can remember their own name and what to play. They’ve taken their time releasing their début album ‘Towards’, but the wait has been worth it. They’re complete antithesis of a guitar band: yes, they have a Telecaster and a ukulele, but they work in deference to the song, instead of the song being an incidental excuse for six-stringed excess. It’s impossible to overstate the songwriting efficiency that goes into a song like ‘False Start’: its funkiness is off the scale, there’s hooks galore, and the whole thing hangs in the air with a citric freshness of style for which merely being Gallic isn’t sufficient explanation. The closer ‘Belong’ has a climax of such theatrical intensity that it leaves the crowd in raptures of applause. There isn’t enough time in universe to get bored with it. We Were Evergreen deserve widespread acclaim, as do Deer Shed for hosting them twice – let’s hope they get their name right third time around.
Summer Camp play the “In the Dock” stage, which is a tent, but they surely would have worked just as well on the main stage, such is the power of their funkily intense pop music. Indeed, Summer Camp are perhaps the perfect intelligent pop band, with just the right blend of sugary melodies, acerbic observational lyrics, and a decent slug of wig-out when they’re really powering on. There’s some cuts from their recent ‘Beyond Clueless’ semi-soundtrack album, but the greatest acclaim is reserved for their back-catalogue classics – ‘Better Off Without You’ from ‘Welcome To Condale’ is received like an old friend. Elizabeth Sankey is a woodland diva, her tremulous soprano lending an air of dignity to the acerbic lyrics, whilst Jeremy Walmsley’s ’80s retro grooves ensure that any joints that may have become stiff in the evening breeze are well-loosened in anticipation of our headliner.
And so we come to Johnny Marr. In part 1 it was already established that Mr Marr is the most successful Deer Shed headliner ever, and outlined the reasons for it. Suffice to say that to these ears, seeing Marr live is actually superior to seeing the Smiths in their pomp: Marr’s voice is adequate but nothing spectacular, which leaves the music and songs space to breathe – the whole isn’t dominated by a preening diva flouncing around. Having said that, Marr is a surprisingly good mimic, his tone and inflection an impressive imitation of Morrissey’s, and indeed Neil Tennant’s for that matter. He played a decent mixture of solo songs, Smiths classics, one or two from Electronic, and a fine rendition of ‘I Fought The Law’. The enormous crowd gave a rapturous welcome, and even though this was surely a modest crowd by Marr standards, it was perhaps one of the most appreciative. It turns out an elder statesman headliner is perfect for the of-a-certain-age Deer Shed demographic. The mind boggles as to where this could lead – there’s no dearth of ex-singers or guitarists from respected bands which were active over the last two or three decades, any of which would be a perfect fit for Baldersby Park. More on this topic in part 3…
Keep it here on TGTF for the conclusion of Martin’s time at Deer Shed Festival 2014 coming soon.
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